Known for his supersonic riffs and innovative recording techniques, virtuoso guitarist Joe Satriani is one of the most widely recognisable and well-respected of his kind. Since his first broke out with his seminal record “Surfing with the Alien” in 1987, the multi-instrumentalist has devoted his life to pushing forward guitar technology, pioneering a series of new production methods that have raised the capabilities of the electrified six-string. On his fifteenth release, a semi-conceptual story arc about the transformative experience of becoming a rockstar, Satriani once again proves that he is at the very forefront of the instrumental rock genre.
“Shockwave Supernova” is in many ways exactly what we’ve come to expect from this artist, but then again not quite. Because while the formula here is essentially the same as always, the boundaries of that formula have been expanded considerably. The sound is much fiercer and more hard-hitting than on his previous outlet, “Unstoppable Momentum”, which I personally found to be one of his weakest records to date, despite containing the irresistible heat-seeker “A Door Into Summer”. To be honest, I don’t think Satriani has been very interesting for the last decade or so, mostly because his style has slowly become more improvisational and less structured. Now, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just increased the hit-and-miss ratio drastically, if you ask me.
On this new disc, though, the New York musician has upped the ante, delivering his material with a sonic energy not heard since 1993’s “Time Machine”. It’s been a long time since a Satch project has sounded so alive and free-flowing, but at the same time so compact and carefully constructed. The instrumentation includes a wide variety of flavours this time around, whether it be the bongo drums on the smooth-rolling “All of My Life”, the playful piano melody on “Keep On’ Movin'”, or the grand string-section on the beautiful closing-track “Goodbye Supernova”. You can really feel the presence of the other instruments throughout this record, and that I think is the key to the success of “Shockwave Supernova”. The organic interplay leaves room for each of the ingredients to do their thing, instead of just having layers of distorted guitars and effects on top of a monotonous drum beat. The drumming on here is also very eclectic, going anywhere from fast heavy metal to jazzy snares and funk rhythms, adding to the diversity of the grooves.
Speaking of grooves, this album features some of the most bluesy riffs Satriani has ever conceived. A prime example of that is the song “San Francisco Blue”, a tune that could easily have been inspired by BB King. It’s light and gruff at the same time, as is the case with “In My Pocket”, which contains a licks reminiscent of AC/DC-guitarist Angus Young’s playing style. Tracks like these provide some of the highlights, and they are sure to stick with you for days to come. There is a lot of power and texture to the songwriting on this release, and that is ultimately what makes the whole thing work so well. The result is what I feel to be the best and most engrossing Joe Satriani record in over a decade. It’s kind of hard to put a finger on exactly why this particularly project is so compelling. Something about it just feels more focused, if that makes sense.
San Francisco Blue
On Peregrine Wings
In My Pocket
Keep On’ Movin’
All of My Life